Power And Desire In John Updike's A & P

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A&P by John Updike is a short story that embodies the theme of power, desire, and nonconformity. It begins when three young ladies, clad in revealing bathing suits, walk into the A&P grocery store. The narrator, Sammy, is a cashier clerk for the store and immediately notices the girls. He is quick to think about the girls’ appearances and movements, describing them in a lewd manner in a casual, thoughts on paper style. Many of the customers show their disapproval of the teenage girls’ appearance, however, the men in the store looked upon the girls with lust, including McMahon, the meat clerk, and Lengel, the store manager. Lengel later chastises the girls for their indecent attire and possibly eludes to the fact that the girls know that they …show more content…

By not showing interest in the men’s desire for them, they are in the position of power. We know that the men were lusting after the girls by the way that Sammy describes the course of events. Sammy states how the girls have an effect on him, describing how his stomach had begun to rub the inside of his apron. This insinuates to the idea that he had begun to gain an erection from watching Queenie turn slowly. Stokesie, though married, acknowledges the girls' sexual appearance by jokingly saying, “Oh Daddy… I feel so faint” (line 74). In addition, McMahon, the meat clerk, had a rather piggish reaction to the girls, as he had looked upon them as …show more content…

Being that he is a Sunday school teacher and the manager of the store, he chastises them for wearing indecent clothing. He does this because he feels like his power in the store was dwindling by them wearing whatever they wanted and felt guilty for feeling such a way about the girls. He doesn’t like how the girls have elicited his and the other men’s desire for them. Lengel also hints to the fact that the girls know that their bathing suits are inappropriate by repeating that the store wasn’t a beach two times (lines 119, 131). Queenie realizes that he is trying to exude his power over her by forcing her to conform to a certain dress code for the store. She tells him that she and her friends are decently dressed, attempting to take the power back and insinuating that he is the one being inappropriate for making a big deal out of their bathing suits. Having discussed the theme of power and desire, the next theme to analyze is nonconformity. The girls’ bathing suits, themselves, are a symbol of freedom and disregard for social rules. The bathing suits also convey the girls’ deliberate provocation, as insinuated by Lengel. Even the way the girls were walking about the store, shows that they were against the natural flow. While all the customers were going one way, following a routine of checking their shopping lists and such, the girls were walking against them, moving

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